Can you premiere my song/video on X website? Sorry but I don't do premieres! Sorry but I don't do premieres! Sorry but I don't do premieres! Sorry but I don't do premieres! Sorry but I don't do premie— *goes blue in face, dies, email requests keep coming*
I'd love you to write this article, but I can't pay you in money, only goodwill/free CDs/tickets. Is that okay? If it's for charity, or a zine, or a small publication with a good ethos, then maybe yes! (If I can fit it in around other work.) If people pay money for your to-all-extents-and-purposes professional publication, then the answer is probably no.
Can I interview you for my dissertation? If your topic is interesting and I have time, then yes! (General advice for asking any journalist/professional person to do this: don't just send a list of questions and a deadline! Introduce yourself and your project and ask if whoever it is would be willing to answer some questions. If I sound like an impatient witch, it's because I've had so many emails like this.)
How did you get into music journalism? I knew I wanted to write about music when I was 11. After some bad teenage zines and power-mad gig reviews for the local paper, I did work experience at NME when I was 17 and started contributing (extremely terrible) tiny album reviews after that. I fell out of the habit after a while, but when I started university in Bristol, they asked me back as a local stringer. I edited the music section of the student newspaper and started writing for free for great people like The Quietus. I got my first Guardian commission by DM-pitching an editor an idea about cats on album covers. (It was 2009. You could get away with that then.) In 2010 I quit university to go and work at NME as assistant reviews editor, running the gig guide, assisting on the reviews section, and writing across the magazine and website. In 2012 Pitchfork headhunted me as their first UK member of staff. (For a time, their UK "office" was a kitchen in glamorous Oldham.) In 2013 I went back to NME as features editor. In 2015 I went back to Pitchfork as a contributing editor and senior editor of The Pitchfork Review. THUS ENDS CAREER PING PONG. As of late 2016, I'm a regular freelancer.
How do I get into music journalism? Read loads of music writing and figure out what kind of style feels right to you. (Unless you're a god-given genius, you'll figure a lot out—including your own voice—through mimicking at first.) Once you feel confident, pitch great publications like The Quietus, Noisey, FACT, Dazed and Fader, which have a reputation for giving new writers a platform. Get Twitter and follow writers and editors that you'd like to be your peers. Don't stick your nose into every discussion, but pipe up from time to time and people will start recognising your name, which might lead them to read your work, which... you get the picture. Also, make sure it's something you really want to do. At least in the early part of your career, you could earn more money working in a cafe. I loathe the (old rock dude writer) mentality that you have to be 4 real, man and write 4000 words an hour (an actual article I once read as a teen that terrified me because I could not—and still cannot—do that). But this is not often financially rewarding work, so it really has to be rewarding in some other way to make it worthwhile.
How do I pitch an article? Pitch stories, not topics. (Especially when you're starting out, an original argument is much more likely to be commissioned than "Can I interview X superstar?" which someone on staff will already be doing.) Do your best to sum up what you want to do in a headline or question, and then write no more than a short paragraph about it. Keep the tone appropriate to the place you're pitching for. Introduce yourself with a line about your experience, and links (not attachments!) to your best work (that's most appropriate to this job). If the offer is time-limited, say so.
What's it like being freelance? For my one-year freelance anniversary in April 2016, I wrote a list of all the things I'd learned—about things from admin to health and the actual work itself—which people seemed to find helpful. (This was inspired by Guardian Guide dep ed Kate Hutchinson's ferociously good guide to freelancing, which you should also read.) Also, this:
Can I ask your advice? If I haven't answered the question here, sure! Click the envelope at the top/bottom of this website and drop me a line.